Michael Flynn ignored official warnings about receiving foreign payments
Trump’s former national security adviser was warned about taking foreign money as early as 2014, Pentagon Inspector General has discovered, undermining allegations of political persecution Michael Flynn has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Turkish government, Russian media organization RT and other interests. Photograph: Beowulf Sheehan / Zuma Wire / Rex / Shutterstock Sign up for The Guardian’s First Thing The Inspector General of the Department of Defense uncovered evidence that Michael Flynn had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest and foreign governments, despite repeated warnings from the DoD and the Justice Department that his conduct may be illegal, the Guardian may reveal. After the retired general pleaded guilty in 2017 to federal criminal charges that he lied to the FBI during its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, then President Donald Trump, Flynn, and their supporters claimed Flynn was the victim of political persecution. . The lawsuits against Flynn, they insisted, without evidence, were the result of a massive plot by the FBI and US intelligence agencies to sabotage the presidential campaign and Trump’s presidency. Trump pardoned Flynn in the dying days of his presidency. But while pleading guilty in 2017, Flynn also admitted to having committed another crime: recounted accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Turkish government without registering with the Justice Ministry as an agent of ‘a foreign government, which was required by law. Now, according to people familiar with the confidential findings of the recently completed IG investigation, the Guardian can reveal that Flynn was warned years earlier that his acceptance of foreign money and his failure to register as a foreign agent would probably be illegal. Moreover, Flynn’s conduct occurred while he was a private citizen, long before Trump became president. Taken together, this appears to be powerful new evidence discrediting allegations of political persecution of Trump and Flynn by those who oppose Trump’s agenda. The new revelations describe how a former military officer, despite being trained to obey rules and orders, was instead driven by personal gain to break the law. The Defense Intelligence Agency first warned Flynn in a letter of October 8, 2014, that his acceptance of foreign money could constitute a potential violation of federal law, as well as the emoluments clause of the US Constitution, which similarly prohibits such foreign payments to government officials. On November 30, 2016, the Justice Department separately warned Flynn that he may violate a federal law, known as the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or Fara, in connection with his work as a lobbyist for the regime. Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The law required Flynn to register with the DoJ as a foreign agent and to honestly disclose the details of his lobbying work to the DoJ as well. Despite the DIA’s warning not to take foreign money, Flynn still accepted $ 45,000 from RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization described by US intelligence agencies as “the main international propaganda medium. of the Kremlin ”, $ 22,000 from other Russian interests and $ 530,000 to lobby for Turkey. And despite the Justice Department’s warning, Flynn did not respect the Fara status. Michael Flynn as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, when he was warned that his acceptance of foreign money could violate federal law. Photograph: Lauren Victoria Burke / AP Flynn resigned as director of the DIA in early August 2014. Over a year later, in December 2015, he accepted payments from RT. From August 2016 to November of the same year, Flynn worked as an unregistered lobbyist for Turkey – while simultaneously acting as a foreign policy adviser for Trump’s presidential campaign. On November 18, 2016, Trump, then President-elect, appointed Flynn as his national security adviser. Because Flynn ignored warnings from the DIA that his acceptance of foreign money would violate federal law, the DoD Inspector General is currently arguing to the Secretary of the Army that Flynn is required to turn over part of the money to the US Treasury. of the receipts that Flynn received from foreign sources. The IG argues that the payments were illegal under the emoluments clause, as interpreted by executive legal opinions and related federal law. This remedy appears to be civil rather than criminal. And as a result of ignoring the DoJ’s advice, the following year, in 2017, Flynn, while pleading guilty to federal charges that he lied to the FBI during an investigation into the Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election, also admitted that he had violated federal law regarding his lobbying work for Turkey. In its October 8, 2014 letter to Flynn, the DIA warned: “The emoluments clause … as interpreted in the opinions of the Comptroller General and by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Legal Counsel, prohibits receiving fees. consulting, gifts, travel expenses, honoraria, or the salary of all retired military ‘foreign interests. The same letter indicated that such payments would violate federal law. The constitution’s emoluments clause specifically prohibits anyone “holding an office of profit or trust” from accepting “any gift, emolument, office or title, of any kind, from a king. , a prince or a foreign state ”. Subsequent executive legal opinions and a federal law prohibited retired military officers from accepting emoluments or compensation from foreign interest because officers could be recalled to active service at any time, and therefore considered an employee. person occupying a position of public trust. . Retired military officers such as Flynn may receive foreign emoluments or compensation if they first seek approval from Congress, the Secretary of State and, in Flynn’s case, as a military officer to the retirement of the secretary of the army. But Flynn didn’t. Clark Cunningham, professor at Georgia State University College of Law and emoluments expert, told the Guardian: “There is no doubt that the money Flynn received to lobby on behalf of the Turkish government or to promote Russian interests would be taken into account. fees ”. Flynn himself had initially sought the agency’s ethics advice. The first sentence of the agency’s letter read, “This letter responds to your request for written advice regarding the ethical restrictions that apply to your retirement from the United States Army.” In May 2016, the chief of staff of the former DIA directors wrote to Flynn and other former DIA directors, reminding them that despite their retirement, they were still required to report any new information from important information to the agency. Flynn’s acceptance of money from RT and other Russian interests would surely have interested the DIA, but Flynn withheld this information, documents say. On November 30, 2016, the Justice Department, in its own letter to Flynn, warned him that they had received information that Flynn “may have engaged in [lobbying] activities on behalf of the Turkish government ”. DoJ officials then warned Flynn, “If such allegations are true, you may need to register under the law.” A spokesperson for the DoD Inspector General said in a statement that they “closed our investigation” of Flynn on January 27 – after investigating allegations that “Flynn did not obtain the required approval. military and State Department before receiving an emolument from an entity controlled by a foreign government ”. Michael Flynn with President-elect Donald Trump in December 2016, the month his appointment as National Security Advisor was announced. Photograph: Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images The IG had since “forwarded several administrative matters by note to the Acting Secretary of the Army for consideration and appropriate action.” The spokesperson declined to say whether the inspector general will issue a public report on his findings, as the DoD IG and other IGs across the government have routinely done in high-level investigations. The Washington Post first reported in March that the DoD Inspector General had completed his investigation of Flynn. But details of why the IG came to its conclusions, as Flynn was warned before accepting hundreds of thousands of foreign interests could violate the law, have not been previously reported. A year after being warned that such foreign charges could be illegal, Flynn agreed to over $ 45,000 to speak at a gala dinner in Moscow hosted by RT (formerly Russia Today), at which he was seated next to Vladimir Putin. Flynn also accepted an additional $ 23,000 from other Russian interest. After Trump was elected president on January 6, 2017, the U.S. intelligence community officially concluded that Russia was engaged in a secret intelligence agency campaign to help elect Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton, and that RT had played a vital role in this effort. The late Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, then a senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sounded a far-sighted alert, noting that Trump had “chosen someone as his national security adviser. ‘one who had violated the constitution by accepting tens of thousands of people. dollars from a global adversary who attacked our democracy ”. Flynn only remained in office for 24 days. He was forced to resign by Trump after admitting he lied to other senior administration officials – and the FBI – about conversations he had with the then Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. On December 29, 2016, the outgoing Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia for its covert interference in the 2016 presidential election. On the same day, Flynn and Kislyak spoke by phone – conversations intercepted by US intelligence agencies . Flynn was overheard advising Kislayk not to retaliate against the United States for the sanctions. When questioned by the FBI, Flynn denied ever offering such advice to Kislyak. On December 1, 2017, Flynn agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges, in plea bargaining with special counsel Robert Muller, that he “willfully and knowingly” made “false, fictitious statements. and fraudulent ”to the FBI regarding his conversations with Kislyak. As part of his plea deal, Flynn also admitted to raping Fara, by not disclosing his work as a lobbyist on behalf of Turkey to the government. In May 2020, then Attorney General William Barr ordered Flynn’s conviction quashed. On November 25, 2020, Trump granted Flynn a full pardon.